As a pediatric nurse for many years and now as a family therapist as well as the mother of two children of my own, I love working with children. I see the potency of getting counseling for children who struggle with life's challenges/traumas while they are young.
The biggest message I would send to parents is to get help for your struggling child before they move into adolescence. It is so much easier for children of younger ages to receive assistance as they are oriented toward the family, toward moving forward, toward pleasing their parents. Children look to their parents for guidance in this confusing world. They want to be happy, they want to feel safe, they cry out for help. This dynamic shifts by age 12 or 13 and children at this pre adolescent and then 13-18 adolescent stage are more focused on their peer and societal influences and can be (yet not necessarily are) less invested in getting help.
Without healing, adolescents are much more susceptible to pressures/messages that reinforce the feeling of not being grounded, balanced, not feeling good enough. These feelings activate a desperation to be accepted by peers and a lessening attention toward an inner compass. If that inner compass has not been integrated/absorbed by adolescence, kids are in trouble.They have no clear sense of who they are and what they believe.
As parents, we can provide our children coping skills and tools that they can learn and practice and have integrated before the hormonal surge of adolescence begins. Yet we cannot give what we do not have. We cannot teach that which we have not learned. We cannot model for our children healthy mood mastery if we have not mastered our own moods. Much of what makes counseling potent for children is the parents' willingness to be coached toward more higher functioning in their own lives and that becomes a beacon for their children to rise higher. Even small changes we make in ourselves serve our children.
Many children have fears, excerbated or caused by family conflict, movies or other frightening images in the media, or other traumamatic experiences (see EMDR).
Get help for your child if you notice a change in:
- Sleeping too much, insomnia, frequent awakening, nightmares, scared to go to sleep, fitful, restless sleep, bedwetting
- Eating too much, little or no appetite, restricting or bingeing or both
- Unexplained changes in behavior, acting younger, clinging, demanding attention, acting like a "baby", fears of being alone, loud noises, sudden movements, being touched, strangers, fears related to a trauma (getting in the car after being in a car accident), other fears or phobias
- Loss of focus and attention
- SCHOOL PERFORMANCE
- Lower grades, not doing homework, losing assignments, giving up
- INTEREST IN ACTIVITIES
- Loss of interest in doing the activities that used to be fun
- PEER INTERACTIONS
- Withdrawn, inability to get along, loss of friends, hanging out with a new crowd
These warning signs are sometimes subtle with children. By the time we notice them, children may have been struggling for a while. Getting counseling for your child includes a great deal of help and guidance for you as parents. The best therapist a child will ever have is his/her parents. Much of the focus in helping children is to teach/coach the parents in new ways of working with their child. As a parent, you have the expertise on your child and your family. I have the expertise on change and healing. We will join together to bring healing to your child and your family. No one can come through childhood without being wounded. This is part of the human condition. Let's work together to consciously tend to those wounded places.
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